by Cathy Faye Rudolph
he flesh is weak, he thought. What should have been a defiant and articulate declaration came out as only a staccato collection of guttural sounds. But what did the words matter? He swung the barrel of the rifle to target each of the room's occupants in turn; the screams and panic the movements elicited would have drowned out any elegant arguments he could have made.
In the name of the innocents, he affirmed to the voices within, I am here to punish them. This is to give them back in full measure the evil they spread in the world, the pervading evil they disguise as "service."
He leveled the barrel at the nearest worker. She was young, dressed in simple clothes. Her screams were all gone, just her dry lips and open mouth working convulsively in terror, her eyes tight-lidded to block out the retribution now before her.
The power surged within him. I am Death, I have come to exact a penalty for your sins, he intoned. He turned the automatic toward another worker over by a copy machine. The woman, pale with fear, stared back at him. Her eyes were empty and uncomprehending. Another soulless demon, he thought.
A postal carrier emerged from a corridor, and came three paces into the now-silent room, then stopped, his stare fixed on the rifle.
This one too, he thought, this one is guilty too. He helps them transact their filthy business. Traffic with evil and you too will be judged.
But there were still more guilty ones in the room. A mother crouched next to a water fountain, trying to shield her young son from his sight. Woman, you would bring a child here and expose him to this? You are no better than the animals who work here, he seethed. A lost tourist, unfolded map held limply in one damp hand, stood by the doorway. It isn't that you are lost, you refuse to see what is happening here! They kill and murder, this is a mill of agony. You may claim not to know, but no one can claim ignorance.
He looked beyond the tourist, out the doors to the street traffic. More of them, driving away from this place, driving by and closing their eyes to this institutionalized horror. He gripped the rifle more tightly, pushed past the tourist, and ran down to the street.
He ran out into the Summer St. traffic, screaming his indictment of the masses of the ignorant. A blue Toyota in the next lane squealed to a crawl, then as he pointed the rifle at the driver, the Toyota surged forward and then stalled, stopped fifteen feet past him. He smiled. You cannot run from me, he said, taking careful aim at the driver. I am here to purge the world of your evil.
The Ford Bronco hit him from behind, knocking him forward twenty feet and then crushing his skull as the truck ran over him.
The yellow police streamers were draped at the entrance, and workers with brooms swept up the shattered pieces of the front door panels. Paramedics had treated all the injuries from flying glass, and trauma teams were assisting the detectives and troopers as they interviewed the former hostages. One EMT wrapped a blanket around the trembling figure of the young receptionist. The detective repeated his question, in low insistent tones. She turned her head slowly, and finally focused on him, as if from a great distance.
"He burst in...screamed something about protecting innocents. He kept shouting things that didn't make sense...random words and sounds strung together. First he aimed at me, then Theresa, then the mailman. I thought he was going to shoot some other people here, then he suddenly ran out and stood in the street, screaming at the passing cars. Then a truck hit him."
She pulled the blanket a bit closer.
"Did you recognize him? Had you seen him before?" the detective asked.
Her head nodded a little. "Yes. He used to work here. When our company came out with some new portfolios that were supposed to have better returns, he got all of his low-risk customers to switch over. Then the bottom fell out of the market, and those new portfolios took incredible losses. He had angry customers calling, crying on the phone-old people whose savings had been wiped out, widows with dependent children, kids saving for college, young couples who would lose their homes...They got his home number, his cell phone number, they kept calling, and calling...They blamed him for pushing them to move their investments. The stress was too much for him, he couldn't maintain the rest of his accounts. There wasn't anything we could do."
The detective looked up from his notepad. "So he was fired?"
She didn't seem to hear him. "He said it was all the company's fault, that the company exploited innocent investors. He wouldn't take medical leave. Management offered to pay for therapy, but he refused. In the end, they had to fire him."
Her sad eyes welled with tears. "In the end, there wasn't any other choice."
from Beyond Understanding © 1994, 1995 Cathy Faye Rudolph.
Contents © 1994, 1995 Wayward Fluffy Publications.
Last revised: August 16, 1995 by Wayward Fluffy Publications.